Desai, Clear Light of Day: Comprehension Questions

Part I

  1. What are the differences in how Tara and Bim react to the rose walk, the dog, and the other changes (or lack thereof) in their old home and past lives?
  2. What makes Old Delhi different from New Delhi? What is the "Old Delhi decadence"? What does this say about the value of silence? (13)
  3. Describe Baba’s attempts to go out into the world.
  4. Contrast the house’s influence on Tara with Bakul’s plans for her (20-21).
  5. What has estranged Bim from Raja?
  6. Describe the various members of the Misra family.
  7. What is Bakul’s attitude towards being an ambassador?
  8. How does Bakul describe India to outsiders? Why does Bim disagree with him? (35)
  9. Note Mulk’s outburst and his concerns with music.
  10. How does Tara respond to Bim’s quoting Eliot? (40-41)
  11. How do the sisters remember the summer of ’47? (42-43)
Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day

Part II

  1. In what ways is poetry important to Raja? the Urdu language? (45-46)
  2. How does Raja react to Hyder Ali’s library? his home and lifestyle? (47ff.)
  3. What is significant about Raja’s choice of college? Why does Raja’s father fear for his life?
  4. Describe Raja’s experience at college.
  5. In what ways does Raja imagine himself as a Romantic hero? (55-56)
  6. How responsibility falls on Bim as part II progresses?
  7. What effect do the parents' deaths have on the remaining family? (64-65)
  8. Why is Bim equally bored with Dr. Biswas and Bakul?
  9. Note how Bakul describes the political situation surrounding the partition.
  10. What do they find at Ali’s house? Why is the servant afraid?
  11. How does Mira describe life? How does she respond to the children as flames? (77-79)
  12. Describe Dr. Biswas’ reaction to Mozart and German culture (82-83).
  13. How does Mira’s madness see her clothes and her life? (89-90)
  14. How do Bim and Raja react to Gandhi’s assignation? (93-94)
  15. Note Mira’s continuing and worsening madness: Why does Bim compare/ not compare Mira’s death to drowning?

Part III

  1. Note how the novel loops back to former recalled moments in Bim’s and Tara’s life.
  2. Why is Mira sent for? What kind of relationship does she have with the other children? (103-105)
  3. How did Mira’s former family treat her? (108)
  4. Why do the children think Mira is not fit to be a mother? Do you agree? (109-111)
  5. How does Raja react as he grows older? How does this shape his relationship with his younger sisters?
  6. How do each of the children respond to reading?
  7. Note how differently Tara and Bim respond to school (122-123).
  8. What two events "cut through the grey chalk dust of school life with stripes of shocking color"? (127ff.)
  9. What do Bim and Tara think about wearing Raja’s pants and smoking his cigarettes? (132-133)
  10. Contrast Bim’s and Tara’s view of college and marriage (140-141).

Part IV

  1. How does Bim imagine Raja’s life?  Why does she distinguish between Raja having a "vocation" and a "hobby"? (145)
  2. What is Tara’s opinion of the way Bim runs her house?
  3. Why does Bim wish Raja were there to talk with Sharma about the insurance business?
  4. Note Bim’s continued anger and Tara’s concern over it.
  5. After becoming angry with Baba, what does Bim learn about her anger? her feelings towards Baba’s silence? her love for her family? her need to forgive Raja? (163-165)
  6. Why do you think the emperor’s last words appeal to Bim so much? (167-169)
  7. Why is Tara still concerned about the swarm of bees that attacked Bim? What does Bim mean by "Nothing’s over…ever"? (174)
  8. How are all the people at Mulk’s concert like a tapestry? (179-180)
  9. What does Mulk’s guru’s voice represent? (181-183)
  10. What are Bim’s views of history?

General Questions

  1. What role does memory play in the novel?
  2. How is forgiveness tied to one's view of the past?
  3. What do we learn in the novel about men and women's roles?  Who has made the best choices?
  4. What do we learn about the racial tensions between Muslims and Hindus? about class struggles? about generational differences?
  5. What is the work's overall message about family?
Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day